We explain what myriapods are, how they are classified and the habitat in which they live. Also, what are its characteristics, examples and more.
What are myriapods?
A group of invertebrate animals , from the phylum of arthropods, popularly known as centipedes or millipedes, is known as myriapods or myriopods . This is due to the fact that they have an elongated and segmented body, with abundant pairs of legs, which in many respects is similar to that of some insects .
Myriapods are not a very well known group, perhaps because they are not easy to find. They are fast, crawling and elusive animals , which at most can be found in specific conditions of humidity, or in dark corners. However, up to 16,000 different species of myriapods are recognized, some poisonous and most harmless.
Origin of the myriapods
The myriapods are evolutionarily linked with the rest of their phylum , especially with the hexapod insects, although there is no scientific consensus on this.
Its biological origin dates back to the Upper Carboniferous period , about 310 million years ago.
In some cases there are records from the Silurian period , more than 400 million years ago, that is to say that they are among the first terrestrial animals.
They are estimated to have changed little since their origins, except in size . There is fossil evidence of myriapods up to one meter in length, since oxygen- rich atmospheric conditions allowed the emergence of animals (especially insects and arthropods ) of enormous size compared to those we know today.
Lower classification of myriapods
Myriapods can be classified into four well-defined groups:
- Chilopods or centipedes. Also called scolopendras, they encompass some 3,000 different species, all with one pair of legs per segment on their body up to 30 cm long. Some have venom in their mouthparts, as their diet is carnivorous .
- Diplopods or millipedes. Unlike centipedes, they have two pairs of legs per body segment, which yields between 34 and 400 legs. Their diet is detritous, which makes them quite harmless to humans . Their long, cylindrical bodies vary among the 12,000 described species.
- Pauropods. With few legs (9 to 11 pairs) and tiny bodies between 0.5 and 2 millimeters, around 600 species of these detritophagous myriapods are known.
- Symphyla. Another type of small myriapods (from 0.5 to 8 millimeters) that live in humid places and have soft bodies with 12 pairs of legs. Between 160 and 200 different species are known, with a saprophagous or herbivorous diet.
Habitat of myriapods
Myriapods generally prefer moisture-rich habitats , as their bodies lose water at a rapid and constant rate. However, it is possible to find species adapted to desert climates and arid surfaces. Most of them are nocturnal animals, which flee to the light and take refuge during the day under stones, logs or leaf litter.
Myriapods are mostly peaceful animals that feed on decaying plants or matter, and even fungi , plant fluids, and other organic debris. The exception is chilopods, which are aggressive predators , endowed with a poisonous bite.
The respiration of these animals is similar to that of hexapod insects. It consists of a system of tracheas and spiracles throughout the body , which is traversed by the hemolymph thanks to a dorsal tubular heart . This design makes them vulnerable to desiccation, as they lack the waxy coating typical of insects.
Reproduction of myriapods
The reproduction of myriapods is sexual , with direct or indirect insemination . In the latter, the male abandons the spermatophores near the female, for her to collect and store them, thus fertilizing her eggs inside her body.
In other species the copulation occurs directly , with the individuals facing each other joining their lower parts, where the gonopods (sexual organs) are.
They are oviparous and the laying is usually numerous (up to 300 eggs) since the female uses the stored sperm. Then they usually guard it until the young are born, after several weeks.
Young are born with few pairs of legs and few body segments ; as they live they add new segments. In some species, newborn young feed on the mother at birth.
Anatomy of myriapods
The body of the myriapods is made up of two different parts:
- Head. Where are the antennae, the eyes and the mouth, as well as the jaws and, in the case of quilopods, a first pair of modified legs that serve to hold the prey and inoculate the venom.
- Trunk. Elongated and segmented, from which the pairs of legs arise and in which the tracheae for breathing and the reproductive and excretory organs are located. The number of pairs of legs varies enormously: the species with the most legs on record is the diplopod Illacme plenipes , with 375 pairs.
Myriapods in culture
Myriapods are animals that humans are still ignorant of many things. Their skittish nature and quick movements are often intimidating or mistrustful, especially in larger species.
On the other hand, the contact between them and the human being is quite sporadic , and their representation in the culture not too abundant. They are considered mysterious, linked to decomposition and death.
The bite of myriapods only occurs in the case of chilopods, and is usually painful, but not fatal. Its venom is incapable of killing a human , but it does produce redness and swelling that usually disappears within 48 hours. People sensitive to the venom may experience anaphylactic shock, requiring immediate medical attention.
Some species of millipedes secrete irritating substances that can cause discomfort to the touch , especially if they come into contact with mucous membranes or with the eyes . In this case, the area should be irrigated (washed with plenty of water) immediately.
Examples of myriapods
Some examples of myriapods are:
- Scolopendra cingulata . Commonly called the scolopendra, it is the largest myriapod in Europe (reaching 17 cm long) and an active hunter of cockroaches, spiders and insects.
- Illacme plenipes . Millipede of American origin, in the state of California, considered the animal with the most legs in the world. It was discovered in 1926 and rediscovered in 2005.
- Psammodesmus brophorus . A millipede discovered in 2011 that houses up to ten species of mosses on its back, which provide camouflage and protect it from fungi.
Check Out Our Guides To Other Popular Topics
- The metaphor is a literary figure that exposes a relationship of similarity between two terms so that their concepts can be interchanged. Know the basic examples of metaphor.
- Be Familiar with characteristics of digital journalism, its history and its impact on society. Also learn about its history, features and examples.
- The formal and factual sciences analyze real objects in ideal environments, and ideal objects in formal settings (such as emotions in the human mind). Learn about its definition, features and characteristics with examples.
- Philosophy is a very old discipline, from which almost all knowledge comes directly or indirectly, from the humanistic to the most objective, from mathematics to literary criticism. Learn about Top 10 Characteristics of a Philosophy, History, Definition, Features and Examples.
- The letters can be formal or informal according to their function and the relationship that exists between the sender and the receiver. Know about the characteristics of formal and informal letter, its differences, elements, and features.
- There are different types of journalistic texts, among which notes, interviews, opinion columns, chronicles , reviews and reports stand out , and deal with various topics in areas such as politics, economy, society, culture, tourism, among others. Learn more about them.
- Jesus (also known as Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus Christ) is one of the most influential figures in Western culture and a central axis of Christianity. Learn about Top 10 Characteristics of Jesus, his miracles, preaching, love and more.
- Computer viruses are programs or software intended to execute actions on our computers without our authorization. Know about Top 10 Characteristics of Computer Virus, its types, elements, and features.
- We explain and summarize the history of television and how it evolved. Also, what are its characteristics and its golden age.
- Be aware of what basic needs are and how they are classified. Also, what are its characteristics and Maslow’s Pyramid.
- Know in detail what Buddhism is and how this religion originated. Also, what are its characteristics, philosophical principles and symbols.
- Know everything about England, how is its climate and the flora and fauna of this country.
- Know in detail what is Google Docs and what this service is for. Also, how to create a document in Google Docs and differences with Google Drive.
- A detailed overview on the federal government, its advantages and disadvantages. Also, its general characteristics and features.
- See in detail What is Hurricane Patricia, how long it lasted and the areas affected. Its general characteristics and types.
- Be familiar with Jewish culture, know how it was originated and what its characteristics are. Also, their customs, prohibitions and more.
The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring reliable sources and recommendations from experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.